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LEBANON: More violence and worry

June 23, 2008 | 10:21 am

Nasrallah_wipesDespite the fanfares of peace over the last few weeks, the Lebanese are realizing that it is still premature to celebrate the end of their troubles.

It is true that a high-profile political accord was reached in Doha last month putting an end to a descent into civil violence. But the recent renewal of armed clashes in some parts of the country, and the delay in forming a national unity government, are raising questions about the intentions of the feuding political parties.

Hezbollah appears to intent on consolidating its political victory. The militant organization will make up one-third of the of new government. But Hezbollah is now pressing to ensure that it controls all of the country's security institutions.

In a speech on Saturday, Hezbollah's Foreign Relations officer, Nawwaf Al-Moussawi said: "There won't be at the head of any security apparatus in Lebanon or any army position someone who does not enjoy the trust of the resistance… Nobody will be able to appoint at any position someone whose allegiance to the nation is doubtful or who is conspiring against the resistance."

Some analysts think that with talks between Syria and Israel on the horizon, the regional political machinations are not in Hezbollah's favor. According to Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Hezbollah pushed in May for a new political situation favorable to them:

"Hezbollah is concerned about Syrian Israeli talks. They have an interest in a normalized and stabilized country where the balance of power is in their favor. This would prevent Israel from attacking them and Syria from selling them off." 

For Sami Nader, a professor of International relations at Beirut's Saint Joseph University, Hezbollah's main challenge today is to ensure "harmony" with the army: "The core issue today for Hezbollah is the country's security system. In 2005, Hezbollah lost its complete harmony with the army. They now want to regain their full trust in the allegiance of the army to them."

One dispute blocking the formation of a government is Hezbollah's refusal to accept that the Ministry of Defense remains in the hands of Minister Michel Murr; he is regarded as too pro-US by the Hezbollah-led opposition.

In the face of Hezbollah's growing sway, its western-backed opponents are attempting to minimize their political losses in the current process of dividing of power.

But amid the continuing political struggle, violence continues in the country awakening old-time rivalries. According to the national news agency, 10 people were killed in the last two days in the north of the country as a result of heavy clashes between supporters of the western-backed majority and a pro-Syrian group allied with Hezbollah.

The battles, where mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns were reportedly used, have reportedly quieted down since the Lebanese army redeployed its troops in the streets.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah Credit: vwt.d2g.com:8081/

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